Brother Edmund Siderewicz, who has spent the past two decades educating disadvantaged children in Chicago and rural Guatemala, challenged Saint Mary's College to help create "a seamless system of Lasallian education" in the United States.
Brother Edmund, speaking at Saint Mary's annual Convocation, said providing quality education from kindergarten through college would help to fill "a tremendous void in the lives of children in need."
His own efforts to end the cycle of poverty for disadvantaged youth resulted in the creation of the San Miguel Schools in two of Chicago's most troubled neighborhoods. The schools have succeeded in helping low-achieving youngsters to reach their academic potential and steer clear of drugs and gang violence. Before his work in Chicago, Brother Edmund spent eight years in Guatemala teaching Mayan villagers and developing a high school.
To honor his work as co-founder of the San Miguel Schools of Chicago, Brother Edmund was presented with an honorary doctorate in educational leadership by Brother Ronald Gallagher, president of Saint Mary's College.
"The Lasallian education you offer these students is not only about challenging them to achieve academic excellence," Brother Ronald said.
"You also provide a safe, loving and nurturing environment that allows children to open up, blossom, and be truly transformed."
In his Convocation address, Brother Edmund compared the need for change in our educational system to the way the online entertainment service Netflix has successfully revolutionalized the video rental industry.
"They've put the consumer in charge," he said, adding that the service has enabled him to watch five movies in the past week, including his first U2 concert. "It was awesome," he said, eliciting laughter from students in the audience.
Following the lead of Netflix, Brother Edmund asked; "How can we put the poor in charge of their education?"
"Our world is not the same world it was even a decade ago," said Brother Edmund. "We as Lasallians cannot think the way we did even a decade ago."
Brother Edmund said he hopes that by creating a K-16 educational model, Lasallian educators can improve on recent statistics that reveal only six of 100 kids will graduate from college, with an even worse outlook for Hispanics and African Americans.
He applauded the social justice work being done on the Saint Mary's campus by the Catholic Institute for Lasallian Social Action (CILSA) and Campus Ministry, which includes sending volunteers to work at the San Miguel Schools in Chicago during January Term.
Brother Edmund gave particular praise to Saint Mary's alumna Carrie Kiskila, who volunteered at a San Miguel school in Chicago for five years following her graduation in 1996. Kiskila attended the Convocation and delivered the closing prayer with one of her students from DeMarillac Middle School in San Francisco.
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